The 21st century began with countless economic, political, social, security and environmental problems. There is no doubt that this is a new era in which problems are globalized and our world seems to be waiting for bigger economic and social upheavals in the near future.
SOCIAL PROBLEMS MAY INCREASE DUE TO UNEMPLOYMENT
Industrial revolution has undergone a revolution within itself and the production processes have completely changed. Capitalism is moving toward monopoly and preventing real market competition. Thousands of factories, brands, companies no longer exist today and thousands of patents have been garbage, i.e. Kodak's photo film winding device.
Machines have already replaced human labor in many production fields such as the automotive, electrical, metal and machinery industry segments. Research and development (R&D) studies on high technology opened new areas to the use of artificial intelligence and robot technology. According to the World Robotics Report of International Federation of Robotics (IFR), by the end of 2016, the number of newly installed industrial robots will have increased by 14 percent to 290,000 units during the year. The number of industrial robots deployed worldwide will increase to around 2.6 million units by 2019. If human labor cannot be employed well, this increasing level of automation will inevitably destroy millions of jobs and bring great social problems due to unemployment. Declining consumer income will result in lower sales of products. In addition, security problems can emerge in an environment where there are millions of people unemployed and income equality deteriorates.
Putting aside economic transformation, recently there has been an atmosphere of chaos in the world. New realities began to emerge and the facts we are familiar with have become "invalid." This trend of instability is accepted as the "new normal" that essentially intends to point out the changing rules of business and all kinds of relations. In addition, illegal activities raise concerns about national and global security. The strengthening of terrorism, mafia and other illegal organizations weaken societies and threaten legitimate political regimes. Clearly, states and societies cannot fulfill their function under insecurity and uncertainty which inevitably destroy the welfare.
Developed countries have become symbols of prosperity and modernity for many years. Yet, in recent years there has been a gradual collapse of these states. The fall of Detroit, one of the biggest cities of the U.S., is a well-known example of our recent history. In 2013, the city declared the largest municipality bankruptcy in American history due to debts exceeding $18 billion. Once a beacon of 20th-century automotive industry and prosperity, Detroit has fallen on hard times with the bankruptcy of thousands of companies (nearly 50,000), including automobile giants General Motors and Chrysler. Unemployment sharply raised to 20 percent in 2013, as a result of which many people left the city and the population decreased by 60 percent, from 1.8 million to under 700,000. Fewer jobs and the declining population further eroded the tax base and caused more people to leave the city. Because of unemployment, abandoned buildings (nearly 80,000) and lack of basic city services, the crime rate went up and the police have no way to respond. Today, Detroit has major hurdles to overcome. Having images like out of a post-apocalyptic worst case scenario, it has turned into a ghost town where prominent filmmakers now use the crumbling metropolis as the backdrop for horror and zombie movies.
Similar to Detroit, a lot of cities in developed countries have begun to encounter similar circumstances, particularly in areas of education, health, security and sheltering. The number of homeless people, for instance, is on the increase. Germany's umbrella organization for housing assistance (BAGW) expects the figure to rise by 30 percent to 380,000 homeless people in Germany, in 2016. According to Global Homelessness Statistics, there were 610,000 people experiencing homelessness in the USA. However, unofficial estimates range from 1.6 million to 3.5, most of which are children (NHC, 2013).
All these facts tell us the world steps closer to a stage where life standards deteriorate more and larger socioeconomic issues wait to be solved. Actually, there are many lessons to be taken from Detroit and other cases.
GLOBALIZATION OR A RETURN TO THE CLOSED SOCIETY MODEL?
Instead of searching for real causes behind the welfare loss, the local people of modern states simply blame others in particular, foreigners and immigrants for the declining prosperity. The presence of foreigners is largely perceived less contributive and a cause of insecurity in a community. Even though international migration has become a global phenomenon and some 243 million people live outside their country of birth (UNHCR 2016), the return to a closed society is now debated that also prepares the ground for xenophobia, Islamophobia and other forms of discrimination. Therefore, the immigrants feel more pressure than the past and they may be unfairly exposed to more discrimination in the future.
In fact, all these developments tell us about a systematic syndrome of our age, that is capitalist order. Frankly, no system can survive by constantly producing injustice and putting only the interests in front of human dignity. Our generation had witnessed the collapse of Communism; in this way, are we witnessing the fall of the wild capitalism that is constantly producing injustice?
THE FUTURE LOOKS BRIGHTER FOR TURKEYAccording to World Bank estimates (2015), the average age in many developed countries is over 40 (Canada 42, EU 43, France 41, Germany 47, Japan 47, UK 41, Russia 40 and the U.S. 38). Aging, declining of population and raising the cost of living make these countries more static and hard-to-live places. At the crossroad of opportunities on the other hand, Turkey stands as a gateway to the new world which, a very dynamic country (age average 29.5), is distinguishing itself from the above countries, and offering many chances for opportunity seekers.The global economic recession hit many countries and produced an economic stagnation since 2009. Despite this depressing global picture and ongoing crisis in its region, Turkey maintains economic growth and keeps her 18th place in the world economy (eighth in Europe - World Bank 2016) with a strong and stable political will. Moreover, foreign capital continues to flow into the country, especially from Arabian, Russian and Kazakh investors. For such reasons, Turkey has been among the countries with "high and sustained growth" for the last two decades (Perspective on Global Development 2017, OECD).
More importantly, Turkey shares her wealth by spreading a culture of solidarity through the world and keeps her humanitarian diplomacy at the center of policy making. This is why in 2015 Turkey became the most generous country in humanitarian assistance regarding its ratio to the national income. Moreover, as OECD states that it is the first country hosting 16 percent of all refugees in the world (2.6 million refugees; Perspective on Global Development 2017).
Security is a pre-requirement to stability, prosperity and welfare. No country can tolerate terrorist activities to flourish in their territory. Therefore, for the last few years Turkey has intensified its fighting against all types of terrorism in its territory and region. The struggle has been successfully carried out, and recent operations show that terrorists have taken a heavy blow. More importantly, a common struggle against terrorism began to emerge in the region, and the relation of Turkey with neighboring countries is on a trend of recovery.
THE CHANGING WORLD REQUIRES THE PERSPECTIVE TO CHANGE
How can major changes be managed? By traditional actors or the new ones? We need to be aware that the world transforms into a multi-actor structure where change and struggle cannot be determined by traditional actors alone like the state. Yet, thoughts, the skills and moral stance of individuals will significantly set the direction of our world.
All in all, the future has arrived and it is required to have a position accordingly in the new emerging structure. In other words, the changing world obliges the perspective to change. It is a waste of time to look at the world with the eyes of the collapsing capitalist world, instead, it is vital to open a different window in minds and develop constructive criticism culture among the society. The world is not just about statistical graphs and everyday economic interpretation on screens and it does not just revolve around interest, stock market, exchange rates or the euro-dollar reserves of some. Therefore, "The World is bigger than five" is a strong message not only to the political world but also to the world of economy.
*President of the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency. This article was previously published in The Pioneer.